Get your calendars ready, folks. Here’s a rundown of the Chicagoland beer festivals you can look forward to this year. In 2011 we saw a few new festivals pop up and we hope to see the calendar round out a little more this year, especially in the woefully bare early summer. Timing is estimated based on previous years unless specifically stated.
Next Saturday, the 21st, is a nightmarish day of inescapable beerfood (coining that) sacrifice. Will you miss the Chicago Beer Society’s annual Brewpub Shootout where Goose Island, Haymarket, Rock Bottom, and Revolution bring the big guns? Or will you skip out on the Brew Ho! H0! and up-and-comers Corazon, Brutally Honest, Soma Ale Works, and New Oberpfalz? Here’s one way to narrow it down: the Brewpub Shootout is a ticketed CBS members-only affair. Either way, you should end up at the CHAOS homebrew club afterward for their first annual Stout and Chili Night to continue gorging yourself into the evening.
Lincoln Square has given unprecedented support to craft beer and homebrewing over the past year. On January 28th, the local Chamber of Commerce will hold its Winter Brew, a neighborhood beer festival at Dank Haus featuring beer from Half Acre, Metropolitan, Finch’s, Revolution, and 5 Rabbit, spirits from Koval, and food from Fountainhead and City Provisions. Square Kegs, Lincoln Square’s homebrew club, along with Brew Camp, the neighborhood homebrew shop, will announce the results of their recent homebrew competition at the event. Did I mention it’s sold out? Sorry!
Night of the Living Ales is a Chicago Beer Society event featuring cask beer from local and out-of-state breweries. Saturday, March 3rd at Goose Island – Wrigleyville, afternoon and evening sessions.
Stout Fest is Goose Island – Clybourn’s ingenious way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Expect an intimate affair with all your favorite local breweries pouring an incredible range of stouts from clean and dry to hop-heavy and bourbon-bombed. March 17th.
Drink. Eat. Play. is putting together a beer festival in Union Station on March 31st. Afternoon and evening sessions for $40, on sale now. This is their first go-round, so expect some hiccups.
Worth noting: City Provisions will announce its summer farm dinner schedule in March.
Tinley Park Brew and Vine Festival doesn’t have the killer lineup of scores of breweries you’ll see later in the summer, but it’s a solid-enough early festival fix, and has wine for your oenophile friends. April 21st.
Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds usually rolls around at the end of April. Pros: huge outdoor party, high concentration of beer geekery, and you get to take home four bottles of a great imperial stout. Cons: most likely not getting tickets, waiting in a long line, buying into the limited release hoopla, and sobering up in Munster, Indiana before driving home. No date yet.
Chicago Craft Beer Week will return this year, but in what form? Last year’s passport and bottle cap prize redemption programs certainly had their detractors. Here’s one certainty: Beer Under Glass, the badass kickoff festival at Garfield Park Conservatory, will be back May 17th. Runs through May 27th. Apparently beer weeks are 11 days long. Alright, bonus!
Two Brothers will hold its annual Hop Juice Festival at their spacious Roundhouse in Aurora over two days this June 1st and 2nd.
Barrington Brew Fest is the north-suburban shindig of note. No date yet.
Wheaton Ale Fest is returning for its second go-round on August 4th. Yes, you can drink beer outside in Wheaton.
Plainfield’s Midwest Brewers Festival will likely also return after its inaugural riverfront gathering. No date yet. Our advice to Plainfield: loosen up. Nobody wants to go to a beer festival under martial law. Talk to the organizers and local officials of the other festivals listed here and they’ll tell you they have few problems with a much more laid-back approach.
Oak Park Micro Brew Review is our favorite outdoor festival. Slated for August 18th.
Goose Island – Clybourn rounds out its calendar with Belgian Fest. This is where Goose Island really shines, like with last year’s fresh-lemongrass-infused Indira. No date yet.
Great Taste of the Midwest is the premier beer festival in the midwest every year. Here’s the catch: it’s in Madison, Wisconsin, and tickets are notoriously difficult to acquire. At some point in your craft beer career, if not August 11th this year, make the journey.
Festiv-Ale blew us away this year. Great venue, well-curated lineup of local and national breweries, and awesome food selections included in the ticket price. It’s on for September 14. See why we called it the best Chicago beer festival that’s not FOBAB.
If you’re going to travel the United States for beer, put the Great American Beer Festival in Denver at the top of your itinerary. This is the big one. October 11-13th.
Jam Productions put on its second annual Beer Hoptacular at the Aragon Ballroom in 2011. Despite many redeeming elements, the most lasting memory of this event for us was how cramped and oversold it was. And Negra Modelo? What the hell were they doing there? Unfortunately, this felt like a beer festival put on by a production company. Props for the distilleries and homebrew components. No date yet. Be warned: this jumped from June in 2010 to November in 2011.
We called the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer our favorite beer festival of 2011. There’s no other time in Chicago that you’ll have the chance to sample a beer selection with this degree of range, complexity, innovation, and quality. Mid-November.